Monday, November 9, 2009

RCMH Pre-Concert Transcription

Another transcript courtesy of Timdalf! More to come...

Howard Shore and Doug Adams
Pre-Concert-Film Discussion
Radio City Music Hall, New York, October 10, 2009

Transcribed from 10 YouTube uploads… Howard and Doug talked for about 25 minutes, of which about 21 are transcribed below.

(They enter from stage right to applause and cheers and take up seats on two bar stools in front of the empty orchestra.)

HS: So this is Doug Adams… (more applause and cheers)…and I’m Howard Shore. (louder applause and cheers). Thank you. Doug and I will talk a little bit about tonight, but Doug is the author of the book “The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films”…
DA: Right.
HS: … soon to be coming out when…
DA: In imminent release.
HS: Yes, and he has been working on it for many years, I think since 200… [lost bit between YouTube uploads] … my archives and all of the scores and everything, so he is really more expert in this music than I am! (laughter)
DA: Well, expert or not, I think we are all going to enjoy equally tonight’s… I think it would be good to begin with a little discussion of what exactly we will be hearing here this evening.
HS: Tonight Ludwig Wicki is conducting, and he is conducting his orchestra from Lucerne, Switzerland, the 21st Century Orchestra, and we have the Collegiate Chorale which have performed “Fellowship of the Ring” with the late Robert Bass wonderfully at Carnegie Hall, [break in YouTube uploads] and soloist Katlyn Lusk who has sung the piece many times in many places around the world, and she is really just an incredible interpreter of this music.
Ludwig Wicki I met years ago. He wrote me a detailed letter about a concert he wanted to give of my music in Switzerland. And I gave him permission to do it and I said, “OK, go ahead and do this.” And I gave him pieces to do because he was so passionate about it and then I went to Lucerne, Switzerland, for the concert. And you always go hoping it’s going to be great, but you feel about somebody doing your music,… a little apprehensive. So I went to Switzerland and the concert was incredible. He didn’t play any “Lord of the Rings” music; he played music from other scores of mine, mostly film scores, from “Se7en”, “Silence of the Lambs”, “Mrs. Doubtfire”, and “Nobody’s Fool” and all these different scores. And he recreated them so incredibly, so when the idea for the projection concert came up, Elizabeth Cotnoir, my wife, said “You should really talk to Ludwig about it, because he interprets your music so beautifully, so faithfully to the way it was constructed.”
[break between YouTube uploads]
…recordings to film. And it uses what we call “streamers” and “pops”. They used to do it on 35 mm film, and they would grease pencil the film for when the music would come in. And they put punches in the film that would give you warnings of tempos and things like that. And that’s exactly what’s on this screen. It’s really a method from the 30s, for synchronization. It is a visual method. His ears are open and there are no click tracks or anything like that, and the orchestra is just playing following Ludwig. And partly it’s a method that you learn where you are hearing the film and you are hearing the dialogue and you learn it like you would a ballet, really, the way he conducts it. And it is so beautifully synchronized in this way to the film and always making music.
DA: It’s an incredible act of coordination. I keep telling people that it’s something like rubbing your head and patting your stomach in front of thousands of people for four hours straight. So it’s not at all an easy task. I guess we can talk a bit about the construction of the score. Many of you have probably seen the Tolkien manuscripts that… [lost bit between YouTube uploads] …are there from dates to lunar cycles to runes to different languages and all of this structure has to be evoked at some point in the score. It can’t just be a series of moods. I know when you first got the film one of the things you carefully did was just to pour over Tolkien’s writing to get that sense of a structure and how that could be related musically.
HS: The score that I wrote for the book took almost four years. Tolkien’s writing of, creating “The Lord of the Rings” took sixteen years. That was how long he worked on it. And really the score has good structure and good form because of his writing really. Because I am creating an image in music of his… his creation, so I inherently have the good bones that he created in his work.
DA: You came at it largely from a cultural standpoint, in terms of the thematic approach. We should mention that this is remarkable for a film score, remarkable for any sort of creation, to have this many leitmotifs that are consistently developed throughout the course of the film. If we look at “The Lord of the Rings” as one three-filmed story, there are over ninety different – some of them long themes some of them short themes – but all of them start from a very specific point and develop to a very specific point.
HS: Right. The leitmotif idea really came out story telling. It was a way to give clarity to the story. “The Lord of the Rings” is considered one of the most complex fantasy worlds ever created and Peter Jackson, who made the film, had such a huge task to do as well. Because he wanted to take a story as complex as this and tell the story (like “Fellowship of the Ring” which is two books of “The Lord of the Rings”), but he had to tell that story in a little less than three hours on screen. And so the idea of using the music to clarify cultures and to understand objects in the story was something that he always felt was a good way to tell the story. And also he felt that the music should be part of the story telling fabric of the films. It’s an older technique really of something that was practiced really in films more from the Golden Age, from the 40s, the early 50s. It was a way of using music in a very specific way to show what’s going on in the film. So for me it was a great gift. I had this great book; I had a great director who had a wonderful sense of the imagery and wonderful story telling. And I worked collaboratively with the three screen writers, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Phillipa Boyens. And the three of them kind of supplied different parts of the equation. Like Peter had a great sense of the epic and the spectacle and the visual in a wonderful sense. And Fran had more of a sense of the smaller things, the relationship between Sam and Frodo, and Gollum’s schizophrenia, and Phillipa was an expert in Ring mythology and taught me a lot about what inspired Tolkien to create “Lord of the Rings”, how once the books were published how it had such an influence on 20th century culture and on our lives. And in my research you go back to Wagner and his work and how he showed us how to use leitmotifs and thematic material in telling a story. So there are connections to this type of story telling.
DA: Although in flavor your type your writing here is closer to…. [YouTube gap]
HS: …and later on I started to delve into Wagner’s works… (a loud noise comes from the speakers sounding very ominous — laughter – Howard and Doug look around in wary puzzlement.)
DA: This has suddenly become the funniest pre-concert lecture we have ever had. So there is the idea of these opera parallels and one of the main goals of the score was to bring clarity, to bring subtext, but also to bring text back into the film. So we have the chorus singing all these languages that were created by Tolkien.
HS: Do you want to talk about the languages?
DA: Sure. Well, we have a collection of languages. Most of these were entirely created by Tolkien: two Elvish languages, Sindarin and Quenya, and we will hear bits of those. I believe they are some of the first we hear in the score under the opening narration.
HS: It’s Quenya which is the more ancient form of Elvish. It’s equivalent would be Old English. Sindarin is a more modern Elvish. And you also hear Dwarvish in Moria…
DA: Khuzdul…
HS: …all sung by men, over here on the right side. And the women sing in the beginning of Rivendell, I think. I had a huge palette really to orchestrate with. I had this symphony orchestra; I had folk instruments as well. You see some of them over here (points to his left), hammered dulcimer, I used a musette, the mandolin, the penny whistle is a very old instrument, Celtic, the tin whistle you’ll hear playing the Shire theme; I had the male and female adult choir, the children’s choir. Other languages that were used: Adunaic,..
DA: Black Speech in there, too…
HS: And thematically working with the screenwriters so carefully we were able to leave little clues along the way of things. You will seen an important scene tonight in the Council of Elrond when Boromir stands and talks about his city, his world, and you will hear a solo horn tonight play a little fragment of the Gondor theme. And so Peter would say, “This is an important moment. And you want to leave hints of things to come.” And so the theme of Gondor is really developed further on and really becomes important in the third part of the trilogy in “Return of the King”. You hear little fragments of things in this film and you hear little fragments of themes for Gollum that develop into his dual personality. Little fragments. And also this being the first film, this is a way to really create the world of Middle-earth and the cultures. So it was very important to express the ideas with clarity from the very beginning.
DA: I think we would be remiss… [YouTube gap]
HS: You want to talk about the Ring themes?
DA: Yes. Three themes represent the Ring in this score. The first theme you will hear, which is near the very beginning of the film is The History of the Ring. And this is heard every time the Ring changes hands, when it moves through the Prologue and eventually goes from Gollum to Bilbo you hear it. And when Bilbo drops it on the floor and Frodo picks it up you can hear it. And this sort of marks the Ring’s passage through Middle-earth’s history.
HS: The passage of time. And the Ring goes from one person to another. Yes.
DA: And an even more potent Ring theme to me is The Seduction of the Ring.
HS: The History of the Ring you usually hear played with strings, with the violins playing. The Seduction of the Ring theme you hear it from the boys. I used a boy choir in London that did the recording. But tonight you hear the Children’s Choir, actually a mixed choir. And I split the children. Part of them are here (gestures behind him to his left) and part of them are on the other side. And they sing this very pure phrase for what we call The Seduction of the Ring, and it’s really this sort of … it’s part of the tyranny of it, really, but it’s done with these children. This really pure sound which gives it more of a….
DA: Seductive quality! For those of you who will understand bits of the text, it’s promising to solve all of the problems… Boromir sees this Ring, and he could solve all of Gondor’s problems if he only claimed this Ring. So it is the Ring really luring you, and saying, “This will take care of everything, just put me on and we will solve everything.”
HS: And then there is the Evil of the Ring. And I used an African instrument, a rhaita, a double reed instrument, you will hear it played by the oboist tonight, and it’s a very brutal type of…. a very strong melodic phrase, very reedy.
DA: It is sort of similar to the History of the Ring, just some of the intervals bent a little bit further this direction or that. So it’s got a similar… and you will hear that throughout the score: similar shapes moved in slight changes of direction to represent something else. And I guess that goes back as well to Tolkien’s writing where there are so many connections between everything he writes, it’s just the details that make up all these differences. Speaking of which I suppose we should speak about the difference between… we mentioned the Elvish music, the Elvish texts which have a very feminine sound, very choral and some light metallic percussion chimes, things like that.
HS: Tolkien, Doug… The beauty of the work is in the contrast that he shows. He doesn’t just show you one world of Elves; he shows you two. You will meet both cultures tonight. You go to Rivendell first, which is a more learned, a more sophisticated world, and compositionally the structure is a little more architectural and very flowing fitting the architecture also of the creation of the production of Rivendell. Whereas Lothlorien, which you enter after Moria, is a much more mysterious, a more exotic world and the orchestration is very different in how the music is constructed, so I am trying to show contrast between Elvish cultures. And later on in the story you also see contrasts between the world of men, of Rohan and Gondor, and even Eastern cultures. So between Isengard and Sauron so the contrasts add so much to the beautiful depth and complexity of the world, because he doesn’t just show you one thing, left, but he shows you left-right, north-south, up and down. So you get a more fully formed picture of Middle-earth.
[YouTube gap]
DA: …after the intermission. That is all male voices, deep drums and all these very brutal sounds and the low pitches of the orchestra.
HS: The male voices… Tolkien said that the Dwarf culture was mostly a male culture, that the women looked like men. And you see Gimli…. You don’t really see the culture because it’s been ruined, but you get…
[YouTube gap]
DA: …you mentioned some of the hobbit instruments as well. The hobbits have a very light Celtic sound, the bodhrans, the frame drums, back there, the celesta, and things like that. The opposite of that would perhaps be the Isengard music which is music of metal and wheels and violence.
HS: I used all metal for Isengard, because Isengard is, part of it is the industrialization of Middle-earth which you are describing: the creation of weapons, of metal, and in contrast to the Shire which is everything green and good and beautiful. And so the Isengard music is all disfigured. I wrote it in 5/4 and it has this sort of lop-sided type of beat to it, three and two type of feeling and you even see it when they run a little lopsided, orc fighting uruk-hai so that rhythm felt right. It’s a very brutal sound, using this metal percussion. There are also Japanese Taiko drums here, there’s Tibetan gongs….
DA: And the mistreatment of a piano as well!
HS: …there’s anvils and metal plates for Isengard and this piano is used in a very percussive way. The percussionist wraps a chain around a… he puts on a garden glove and wraps a chain and sand bags the petals and he strikes the inside of the piano to create this real dynamic sound.
DA: So it’s an amazing collection of material. Were we to be here tonight without the screen, without the dialogue, we would still get every element of the story musically. It’s all still represented here. Which is one of the true wonders of the Often in film music it becomes a collection of moods, things are happy now because you see the hero, things are dark and dissonant because… But this is more thoughtful, more cerebral. There is an element of keeping up with Tolkien, I suppose.
HS: Yes, well, he created this structure to it and you are creating something in his image, really.
DA: You are getting ready to head back into the world of Tolkien, I suppose. The Hobbit film is coming up.
HS: Well, The Hobbit is…
(Cheers and applause interrupt here)
HS: ….“The Fellowship of the Ring” and when you see the beginning of this story you will see the connection to The Hobbit. You will even see in the Prologue, I believe, little scenes from The Hobbit, like Bilbo, because it makes references to it. And when you enter the Shire it says, “Sixty years later…” The Hobbit ends, and then sixty years later is the beginning of “The Fellowship.” And we want the films to relate and feel that you have entered these worlds in these other two films.
DA: So it’s a returning to home for you, in some ways, or at least it’s a fond place to spend some time in Middle-earth.
HS: Yes, I am looking forward to it. It’s a wonderful project.
DA: Well, I believe I am getting the sign that we need to be moving on. But thank you all for being here, and have a wonderful time. Thank’s everyone…
HS: Many thanks to Ludwig Wicki, the 21st Century Orchestra, the Collegiate Chorale, thanks so much.
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